Thursday, May 11, 2006

Problematic Idea of Tradition

From an interview with Erik Davis, author of Led Zeppelin IV, part of Continuum's 33 1/3 series (the book looks interesting, and as obsessive a Zep fan as I was, I should probably read it--hell, I read Hammer of the Gods twice, people) (link via Simon Reynolds, from last June):
Certainly there is a relationship between nostalgia, whether personal or spiritual, to conservative or reactionary politics, which is one reason progressive or avant-garde circles often reject the autumnal glow of nostalgia as false consciousness. But I think in our intensely mutating world, the instinctive reaction against classic conservatism is, like most things, too simple—after all, our "conservatives" these days are anything but. Today's Republicans are globalist revolutionaries who use a fabricated and deeply contemporary Christian "traditionalism" to create an untraditional politics of moralistic marketing and idiot affect that blocks or displaces what should be legitimate anger, resentment, and resistance at what aspects of our shared world are being sustained, or conserved, and what is being crushed beneath the engines. A genuine conservatism—I am not trying to recuperate the word, just play with it—would be interested in maintaining certain lines of development—cultural, biophysical, genetic, etc.—against the Frankenstein monster of nihilistic posthuman capitalism. That is why I still think that the problematic idea of tradition still has tremendous value, because the progressive intellectual attempt to be purely contemporary, to jettison all nostalgia, leaves one with very little ballast against the flattening dominant paradigm of posthuman mutation. It cedes the whole rich and potent field of past meanings to reactionaries, rather than cultivating its convulsive spark.

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